The Greatest Pill to Gratify Your Lover
by Jim Cummings
Unfortunately, most of this story is true.
I came back from a business trip to New York and she was acting different; indifferent and distant. We had only been married for 12 and a half months. I told her, “you know, it really sucks to come back and be ignored by someone you love. What’s up?” She said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about everything — I really enjoyed the time that you were away — I’m not sure that I thought through marriage as much as you did — having you back in the house is making me feel anxious and depressed.” I asked her if she was still attracted to me and she shook her head, “Not really.”
I kept telling her that she didn’t choose that, and that I didn’t blame her, and all the while, the architecture of our home was collapsing. The years of furniture-collecting and design that fabricate your living room are crushed by an imaginary construction team with a phantom backhoe and she sits there, unfazed. The wedding photographs are no longer sun-streaked and blooming, they’re gloomy and all of our relatives, dressed to the nines, are frozen, staring up at a dark tornado, running from the flying debris. She was no longer attracted to me; I said she probably just needed a trip to the optometrist, she must be going blind.
She said she needed space, so I drove to Los Angeles and slept in motel parking lots along the coast. I kept having nightmares where she was shouting at me about other men and I’d wake up, ashamed at discovering a caveman in my subconscious. She would tell me that she hadn’t been in love with me for close to two years. I found out from the Gorgonians that they had been depleting the levels of Oxytocin in her brain and that they needed her to be unhappy to get me out of the house. But I didn’t know that yet so I was heartbroken.
You spend hours groaning on your back, pitching fits and feeling sick to your stomach. You wake up crying. They must have been zapping my Oxytocin too and probably had been since I got off of the plane. “You make it difficult to respect you.” ZAP. “What are you doing with your life?” ZAP. “People are right when they say you come off as condescending.” ZAP.
“It’s just like The Flamingo”, everyone kept saying; the movie that I had made three years prior with the actor PJ McCabe about a breakup. PJ had gone through similar dealings with the psychology of rejection in real life, having been thrown to the wind by a girl he really loved, so my first priority, outside of fighting the near-vertical uphill-battle in our couples’ counseling, was to spend time finding out how he coped with the grief. Little did I know, PJ had been working with the Gorgonians for over two years.
He had been receiving a steady communiqué from their scouts via email over the last 18 months and wasn’t able to process the messages without hours of calculations on graph paper; their language was made up of data that described points in 3D space that built letters to form English sentences, floating in PJ’s simulation software. They would be street names or intersections and he would gun it through Los Angeles to the tallest rooftop in the area by midnight or the communication would be lost. We blew through red lights and stop signs with the fake police siren we bought the week I moved down. We would play “If I Ever Feel Better” or “Forever Young” and hang out of the speeding car windows. We’d stay up all night sometimes. The neighbors hated us.
The emails were coming from Chinese addresses that disguised the code inside spam for male sexual endurance and penis enhancement pharmaceuticals. I found this out when I heard PJ crying in his room two weeks earlier and by the time I got there he was scrambling to shut his laptop on an email titled, “The Greatest Pill to Gratify Your Lover.”
“What’s the matter?” I said, and sat down.
“Doesn’t sound like nothing.”
“Can I be honest with you, Jim?”
He exhaled, “I’ve been interacting with alien life forms that call themselves the Gorgonians, they have a time machine, and I think they’re gonna destroy the planet…”
BBC Journalist Louis Theroux in interview with the American Pornstar Tommy Gunn in 2012.
Louis Theroux — “A lot of the performers I’ve spoken to won’t acknowledge that, they don’t acknowledge that there is something intimate about the sex act and that that can take a toll on your — relationships.”
Tommy Gunn— “Maybe if they were to acknowledge that, maybe that would show that they have a human side of some sort and that there is some sort of emotional thing there, and the last thing that they want to do is appear to be… vulnerable.”
Louis Theroux — “And maybe also it would be difficult to live with themselves knowing that there is something about the business that they’ve chosen, intrinsically, that — has a coarsening effect on the human spirit.”
Tommy Gunn — “Yeah.”
We were on some rooftop in North Hollywood. The sky never gets dark here, it looks like muddy, underwater photography. PJ had drawn an X in chalk by the northwest corner, just in case this was a “landing situation”, but he was pretty sure it was just a pickup.
“I’m pretty sure this is just a pickup. — We’re looking for a pipe that kinda looks like a flashlight. Sometimes they’ll hide it and you spend half of the night just lookin’ around. You take that side.”
PJ was feeling the corners of the tarry blacktop and the AC units kept switching on and scaring the hell out of me. I wish I had had a flashlight. I kept telling myself that I had nothing to worry about and that PJ was a pro at this, I should just listen to him, but I was having those moments you get sometimes of devastating clarity, ‘what am I doing here?’, ‘is this actually helping anything?’ He told me about this time that he spent all night looking for the container, and just as he was about to throw in the towel it fell out of his hoodie pocket. These guys were good.
There were high-rise apartments across the street and at this height, people lived their lives on display; you could see a woman laughing on the phone, a man with his iPad on his couch. I spent the last five weeks thinking that the world was going to end and everyone was oblivious to it but us. Sometimes, seeing happiness in strangers can generate such pangs of the enchantment of normalcy that you can often forget your bullshit. I guess they call that ‘hope’.
“Got it! I got it.” PJ was dangling over the fire escape with the shiny capsule. He started cracking it open on his knees.
“You keep watch. It might be an ambush”, he told me, so I walked back to the stairs to keep guard. Unbelievable: ‘aliens that can travel star systems are gonna be overtaken by five-foot-eleven me? What am I gonna do, out-condescend them? What the fuck am I doing here?’ I sat in the stairwell shaking my head, waiting to hear PJ’s news before spending an hour searching for a quiet parking lot to sleep in. Is this my life right now? Is this really happening to me?
He rushed in, “Just a pick up. Nothin’ fancy. Wanna grab a drink?”
This is so stupid, there wasn’t even anything useful in these packages, it was just more maps and late-night driving. If the world really was going to end I just kind of wished that it would happen, at least then there’d be some resolution instead of more false-starts on rooftops. PJ didn’t care about that stuff. My goal from the beginning was to stop the world from ending, but I think PJ just wanted to go back in time.
I had to put down our cat once, his name was Catbus, and he was such a good sport. He used to let our friend’s daughter drag him around under her arm like a teddy bear. We found out that he had a disease called FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) and that it was going to kill him. It’s harmless to most cats, but deadly to about 10 percent of them. Anyway, he had it, and they had to pump him full of a pink liquid called Phenobarbital until his little heart stopped. She said that it was too sad for her to be there, so I held his little hand and cried with my friend Jonathan in the vet clinic and they carried him away in my beach towel. FIP is a wasting disease like the Human Corona Virus. It eats away at the cells of a cat like a cancer and he was in such pain by the end of his life, hobbling around our apartment with stitches from his stomach to his neck, that it was only humane to prevent his future suffering by ending his life. This is how the Gorgonians explained the destruction of earth to me. They see the planet like a dying Catbus, unable to heal itself, in need of its own phenobarbital.
We tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn’t listen, they had made up their minds already. It was the hardest argument that I’ve ever fought, I gave it everything that I had, but they didn’t care. They were going to end us and that would be that. They were going to destroy everybody and not hold our hands when they did it, or cry about it, or pat us on the head, or say,
“Go to sleep, little buddy. You were wonderful.”
Louis — “Have you had relationships while you were in the business, like serious long-term relationships, while you’ve been in the business?”
Tommy — “Have I?”
Louis — “Yeah.”
Tommy — “Yeah.”
Louis — “And was it a strain? Was it a struggle in any way?”
Tommy — “I try not to let the past effect my future, but when the heart gets hurt, that’s a difficult thing. I have a tendency of wearing the heart on your sleeve, you ever heard that expression? What does that mean when you wear your heart on your sleeve?”
Louis — “It means that you give love very readily and you make yourself vulnerable.”
Tommy — “Yeah… I do that… A lot. So maybe that’s why this works out for me, cause my heart isn’t in this. My heart is safe, at home, in a box where nobody can touch it… But I get to go to work, I get to breathe heavy in some girl’s ear — and at the end of the day I have my release, and that’s healthy.”
We were on another rooftop, downtown this time. It was a landing situation and they had ambushed us alright. Bright lights, flying saucer, Spielberg nailed it. The drawbridge lowered and we heard footsteps as it walked down the platform to greet us, and somehow I knew who it was before I saw him, I think I always knew. It was Max Von Sydow dressed as the knight, the sad crusader. He reached to hold my hands in his. He was so young. He had escaped his turmoils somehow. Of course it was him.
He said, “It’s nice to meet you both. We will be pumping a neurotoxin into the atmosphere in August that will kill all of the fauna on this planet. This is the only method that we have to preserve all non-self-destructive life here. We have chosen the two of you because you have shown high rankings of caring for your fellows, your oxytocin levels are far above normal, so we are testing the outcome on the humans that will feel the impact of our actions most. As you may already know, the second most common regret on a person’s deathbed is that they worked too much. The puppet is not made free by loving its strings. Your fears are correct that you are sailing toward your graves and that the only thing that can make that trip worthwhile sometimes is holding someone’s hand while you do it. I’m sorry for your losses. If you’d like, we have the technology to send you back in time to relive the last decade with this in mind.”
PJ had his arm around me now. I wondered what they looked like to him. They knew everything about us, I felt so helpless, there was no reasoning with them. I tried to tell him that it wasn’t the best method and that it was so unfair to kill everything because of what some of the controlling bodies were doing to this place. Why are you acting like this?
They didn’t like that, so they distracted me by giving me multiple lives with her, spending them happily and in comfort, and I saw all of our possibilities at once and they were real living experiences; the playlists of music, the dinners, the embraces, even ones that hadn’t happened yet. I was young and old and me at the same time.
They brought me back to our first moments, when she was still interested. They made me walk the stairwell of the party at 21 Cortes street again and again. Seeing her walk up the stairs, concernedly asking her if she was leaving. “You’re not leaving, are you?” My first words to her. Her smiling. I must have said it a thousand times.
I wondered where PJ was in his dream. Was he far away with his heartbreak? Was he reliving the first moments with his ex? No, he was right here at the party.
“Hey… Do I know you?”
I had forgotten, we hadn’t met yet, but he was at this party 7 years ago, and then I realized that it wasn’t really him with the beer in the red solo cup, and that it probably wasn’t her either.
The Gorgonians were just asking me if I wanted to go back and never meet her, they were giving me other options and I was telling them no. The blinders had fallen and I was back on the rooftop in the bright lights and Max was asking me if I wanted my memory erased.
I told him that I didn’t; and that I wanted to remember that I wanted to remember it. I wanted to remember everything but they weren’t gonna let me, I had to fight them to keep the painful stuff. “Please don’t take my memories.” I pushed her hair behind her ear and she pulled away. “Please don’t make me forget.” I was wiping her tears at the alter. They were pumping that pink shit into Catbus’ arm again and I was crying and packing the Uhaul. “I don’t care if they hurt, please just don’t take my memories.” Everything was on fire, the bombs were going off. I needed those memories. I wanted to breathe them in and let them grow inside of me like FIP. Then everything stopped and I could stand up, so I did. I could speak again so I said,
“We don’t need your medicine. Get the fuck off of our planet. You don’t know anything about us.”
Needless to say, we were able to talk them out of it, but they still knocked me out and probed me and when I came-to I was alone on the rooftop. I tried calling PJ but his phone number was now a picture framing company in Philadelphia. He had taken their offer to go back in time, and by the looks of it, he had changed the course of the last decade. I remember him, but our friends don’t. They still think that I’m making him up. He hasn’t reached out which makes me think that he decided to have his memory erased too. I hear he’s happy now; he lives in a cottage on a cliffside in Cape Cod. He’s smiling in his Facebook picture.
I’m jealous and I’m not.